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Russia21 April 2006

Weekly Nash Region fined 3,000 euros in cartoons case

Editor of Nash Region Anna Smirnova, was fined 100,000 roubles (3,000 euros) on 14 April after bringing out a special edition of the local weekly about the case of the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

Smirnova had been facing legal action since February for “incitement to religious hatred or hostility”. She was charged with using her editorial position on the newspaper, published in Vologda, north-east of Moscow, to incite hatred.

The prosecutor in the case had called for a suspended two-year prison sentence.

The editor, who has been placed under house arrest until she pays the fine, has said she wants to appeal against her conviction.

After criminal proceedings were opened against her, Anna Smirnova and her husband, Mikhail Smirnov, the weekly’s publisher, decided to close down Nash Region to avoid causing religious conflict. It has still not reappeared.

At least two newspapers and three websites were given warnings or were convicted in cases that arose out of the controversial publication of the cartoons in a Danish newspaper.

21 February 2006

Local newspaper shuts down after being targeted for publishing cartoons

Reporters Without Borders condemned the closure of small local newspaper Nash Region, in Volodga, north-east of Moscow which was targeted by the authorities after producing a special issue on the Mohammed cartoons.

Its editor, Anna Smirnova, faces criminal charges for “incitement to hatred or religious hostility” and could go to prison for up to six years. The Vologda regional prosecutor accused her of using her editorial position to incite hatred.

Publisher, Mikhail Smirnov, told the press freedom organisation that he decided to close temporarily during the criminal investigation to try to ease pressure from the authorities.

The paper had carried a compilation of articles and accounts on the cartoons case. It illustrated the report by reprinting some of the cartoons that did not actually show the Prophet Mohammed, he said.

“We condemn the closure of a newspaper, which has only carried out its role of informing the public by dealing with a subject that is high on the news agenda around the world,” said Reporters Without Borders.

“It makes no sense to lay charges against the head of the newspaper since no organisation has laid a complaint against her. The charges are being made directly by the authorities but we do not understand on what basis,” it added.

“We take exception to intimidation aimed a controlling the paper’s editorial line and to dissuade all media from covering this subject. The authorities are making an example of this small newspaper in order to issue a warning to all newspapers,” it concluded.

Russia, which has nearly 20 million Muslims, has seen no protests against the cartoons on the part of the Muslim community or any organisation. But the Minister of Culture, Alexander Sokolov, told local media on 16 February to refrain from publishing any news that could offend religious convictions. He added that the Russian government was ready to sanction media that did not respect this recommendation by removing their registration from the business register.

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